For the past five years, our NOPE of Hillsborough Chapter has awarded $33,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in Hillsborough County Schools. We have found this to be some of the most rewarding times spent during the year in addition to our in-person student presentations.


Part of the application process now includes writing an essay surrounding the student’s experience witnessing a NOPE student presentation. We encourage the applicants to share their feelings about this purposefully blunt and emotionally charged presentation. We also prompt them to share what they gleaned from the presentation that they hope to carry with them for years to come.


The essay below is from Shota Konno who graduated earlier this year from Robison High School. Those who live in our school district are aware of the academic rigor associated with the IB Program found at Robinson. We found it so rewarding and reassuring to read what Shota had to say about our efforts to reduce youth substance abuse and overdose deaths in our community.


“Unfamiliar faces of teens appeared on large posters by the stage, their stares casting silent judgment on the audience. I felt uncomfortable in front of the two-dimensional strangers and their smiles, even before the presentation. Studying the faces on each poster, I spotted a name: Carathanasis. Shortly thereafter, I saw the familiar face of Mrs. Carathanasis, the mother of my kindergarten classmate. My thoughts fell silent. Nothing shocked me more than knowing the family who had lost a son from an overdose, and I asked myself how I could stop other families from experiencing the same suffering.
Perhaps it says something that I could not remember the three distinct points because my mind had merged them into one word: prevention. Whether I get help for a friend with suicidal thoughts or one who has considered drugs as an outlet for stress, I care for the wellbeing of others and ensure that my friends can count on me. My guidance counselors have made it clear that I can turn to them and that I have resources available to get help for those in need once I graduate from high school. I will continue to avoid situations where I might encounter narcotics, and I will review how to help those in need who suffer from substance abuse.
The thought that something as small as a pill can kill me scares me. I cannot imagine a friend experiencing an overdose and dying because it almost seems unbelievable. Fiction, a nightmarish scenario in a novel. To prevent the death of a loved one from becoming a reality, I will remain vigilant about the substances that my friends consume and steer them away from dangerous environments and the temptation of narcotics. As a precaution, I will remember the signs that someone is undergoing an overdose, so that should a friend experience one, I can immediately call 9-1-1 and hopefully save their lives.
The NOPE Student Presentation brought the dangers and consequences of narcotics and overdose to the forefront of my life. Prior to the presentation, I had not heard of anyone who had overdosed or even taken drugs for pleasure. The moment I recognized Mrs. Carathanasis, the topic became a reality. No longer was I learning about the national opioid crisis that seemed distant; now, I was listening to stories about teenagers in my county, some of whom lived in my community and went to schools near my house.
As an adult, I must make my own choices in college and beyond. Remembering the feeling of grief emanating from the presenters reinforces how the harsh reality of overdose continues to devastate families and individuals throughout our communities. With this fact in mind, I will embrace the three points of the NOPE Student Presentation to maintain my well-being and the well-being of my peers in college. If overdose threatens the lives of the youth and others in our communities, I will dedicate myself to helping addicts overcome their addiction and prevent others from relying on drugs.”


We will continue our efforts to educate and empower students on ways they can help break this cycle of selling, buying, and using substances. It is thanks to the volunteer efforts of many that we are able to keep our efforts going, free of charge to any middle and high school in our school district.